With most of the snow now melted and streets completely cleared, it's almost easy to forget it's mid-January.
Some snow returning to the forecast was welcomed news to West Michigan businesses specializing in snow removal.
LeRoy Butler owns Butler Lawn and Landscape in Kalamazoo. During the winter, his business shifts to snow removal to keep busy. This year, however, has been anything but busy in the snow department.
As of Jan. 13, 2021, Kalamazoo had picked up just shy of 7 inches of snow so far this season. In an average winter we would have seen a little over 30 inches of snow by this point in the year.
- Check the forecast: WWMT.com/Weather
Butler has plowed snow for over 30 years and said he loves doing it. In recent years, however, he's noticed a change.
"Over the last 3-5 years it's been declining as far as the number of snow events," Butler said. "It leaves us wondering what the future is of snow removal."
Butler said he's noticed a shift in the type of weather events as well.
"We've been doing even more salting type work vs. more measurable snow plows," he said.
His fleet of plow trucks had only been fired up three times so far this season, and they've been sitting for nearly two weeks.
The lack of snow has an upside and downside to Butler's business. His residential clients pre-pay for the season based on an estimated 18 plow jobs, so in a more quiet year he may come out ahead.
Homeowners aren't the only people Butler works with. Businesses he plows are billed on a per-time basis, and missing out on that added income is what hurts when the weather is quiet.
"You still spend a lot of money in the beginning to get ready for the snow, with repairs and purchasing of equipment and stuff," Butler said. "But you really suffer when you don't have that per-time billing for monthly billing."
While some of the extra salt products purchased will likely be held until next season, Butler said that's money tied up he can't spend elsewhere.
"Overall it's Michigan. It's Mother Nature, you're dealing with what she gives you, and we're hoping it gets better," Butler said.
The Better Business Bureau Service Western Michigan gave several tips to remember before hiring a local snow removal business:
- Take a hard look at who the business or person is by checking online reviews.
- Be sure they're able to fit you into their schedule of when you need the job done.
- Make sure they have liability insurance.
- If signing a contract, make sure you know how many plow jobs are included in the contract.
- Try to avoid paying for everything up front if you're hiring someone you don't know yet to ensure you're satisfied with their work.
There's no state operator licensing required for snow plows, other than a drivers license, but check to make sure your local government doesn't require any additional permitting. You can also look up a business rating at BBB.org.